University of Melbourne Magazine

Lawyer opts for class action

  • Grant Anderson

    “I’d never been in front of a classroom of teenagers. Having three teenagers myself, I knew there’d be a few challenges in there.” PICTURE: HOLLY BENNETT

    GRANT ANDERSON (BCom(Hons) 1987, LLB(Hons) 1988)

    Grant Anderson had worked for decades as a corporate lawyer when he left his high-paying career for a decidedly less lucrative one – teaching.

    “There were some who wondered what on earth I was doing,” he says, with a laugh. “Because the salary cut is quite significant.”

    He had spent the previous 27 years, 18 as partner, at the legal firm Allens in Melbourne. He was 50 and knew if he wanted a change, he would have to start soon.

    “I wanted to have a second career,” he says. “I didn’t want to leave it for too much longer because there’s obviously training you have to do and I wanted to work for perhaps another 15 or 20 years.”

    One of the things Anderson had enjoyed most about his work in the law was mentoring and interacting with younger lawyers. “I had it in the back of my mind for a while that teaching was probably the sort of career that would suit me,” he says, “because of the communication of information and interaction you have with younger people who are starting off in their career.”

    Anderson left Allens in November to pursue a Master of Teaching at the Graduate School of Education, a three-year program that involves a large measure of practical experience in classrooms. In February, Anderson started work at Victoria University Secondary College in St Albans, teaching legal studies, economics and business management to years 10, 11 and 12. It was no easy feat, even for a man with years of experience in the field.

    “I’ve stood up in front of lawyers and clients. But I was nervous,” he says of his first day back at school. “I’d never been in front of a classroom of teenagers. Having three teenagers myself, I knew there’d be a few challenges in there.”

    Anderson says he has had to learn the art of keeping kids interested in the material. “You have to grab their attention from the first minute. If you don’t make your lesson interesting within those first couple of minutes, then they’re going to just lose interest. And once they’ve lost interest it’s very hard to get it back,” he says.

    Anderson says the transition from lawyer to teacher is not necessarily a stretch. Both professions try to make difficult information easy to understand.

    “There’s a bit of an art to identifying what’s relevant, packaging it up and explaining it to clients and particularly nonlawyers,” he says.

    And though he worked longer hours as a lawyer, Anderson has found that teaching can be just as tiring.

    “Kids just see teachers in the classroom, but that’s the tip of the iceberg,” he says. “There’s a huge amount of preparation and thought, along with administration.”

    By Kate Stanton